For more than a decade, actor Michael Jace graced the small screen, becoming a familiar face as a Los Angeles Police Department detective on “The Shield.”
But it was an off-screen Jace who was in handcuffs Monday night surrounded by LAPD officers. Twenty feet away, inside the hall of a well-kept, three-bedroom Hyde Park home, lay the body of his wife of a decade, April Jace.
The 40-year-old woman had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to her upper torso. The veteran actor, dressed in a short-sleeved shirt, showed little emotion as flashing lights from police cars reflected off his face.
Minutes before, about 8:30 p.m., a man called police from the actor’s cellphone, saying that he had just shot his wife to death. Police allege that Michael Jace placed that call.
Two children, both reportedly younger than 10, were inside the pink stucco home on a quiet South L.A. street at the time of the shooting.
“At very least they heard the shots,” LAPD Det. Sal LaBarbera said. “It is a terrible tragedy, made all the more worse by their children being there.”
Neither child was hurt.
By 3 a.m. Tuesday, Jace had been booked on suspicion of murdering his 40-year-wife, a well-liked financial aid counselor at Biola University, an evangelical Christian college in La Mirada.
The actor, who played Julian Lowe on the FX series “The Shield,” confessed to the crime, said two law enforcement sources who requested anonymity.
LaBarbera said investigators searched the home in the 5400 block of Brynhurst Avenue and recovered a handgun, which will be tested to determine whether it was used in the shooting.
April Jace and her sons had been home for about 15 minutes after baseball practice before their mother was shot, detectives said.
Beforehand, neighbors reported seeing Michael Jace pull into the driveway, walk in and leave the front door ajar. A few minutes later, a neighbor heard popping sounds and took cover.
Police arrived to find an unarmed Jace standing in the doorway, his wife’s body visible in a hallway.
They handcuffed the actor. Paramedics arrived soon after and pronounced his wife dead.
LaBarbera said Monday night’s 911 calls were the first time they had been called to the home, adding that the couple had no public history of trouble.
Michael Jace had no arrest record, according to public records, but divorce papers from a previous marriage make allegations of threats and domestic violence.
Ex-wife Jennifer Bitterman alleged in a November 1997 divorce filing that Jace allegedly threatened to kill her if they went to “war over his visitation rights to their son.”
Also in the filing, a friend of Bitterman who lived with the couple informed the court that she was in the room when Jace “choked and hit” Bitterman and “slammed her against the wall while [her son] screamed in his crib next to her.” The child was 6 months old at the time.
The friend, according to court records, reported seeing at least three more incidents of violence in eight months.
The actor had been under financial strain for years, court records show.
Michael Jace filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in March 2011, listing more than $500,000 in liabilities against $325,000 in assets, according to federal court records.
At the time he owed more than $22,000 to the government, $16,000 to credit card companies and carried two mortgages.
Jace appeared to be keeping up with the payments until late last year, when a creditor filed a notice that he had fallen $2,800 behind on payments.